kmt + science   178

The Curious Wavefunction: Book review: "John von Neumann" by Norman Macrae
His philosophy was simple: keep on doing good work and be a decent person and then don’t worry about anything else. You are not responsible for what others think about you; a philosophy that Richard Feynman said he imbibed from Johnny.
book  review  science  history  math  physics  magyar 
9 days ago by kmt
The future of science is in your hands: An interview with Michael Nielsen / Boing Boing
Put another way, science-the-organizational-system (as opposed to science-the-practice, or science-the-body-of-knowledge) is an incredibly contingent thing. That means there are many design possibilities, which is exciting and encouraging.
science  research  academia  economics  interview  people 
4 weeks ago by kmt
The Curious Wavefunction: Lessons on management styles from Edward Teller, Hans Bethe and Robert Oppenheimer: A question of temperament
Teller, having lived and breathed the bomb, having contributed to both its politics and its science, having seen the vision of its even more powerful descendant (a bomb drawing its energy from nuclear fusion), thinks of himself as a logical choice to head the division.

Oppenheimer instead picks Bethe. It's an omission Teller will not forget.

The decision would have far-reaching consequences for the organization of the Manhattan Project. It would sow the seeds of discontent that would fracture the community of American physicists a decade later. And it would drive home the interplay between management philosophies and the mechanics of complex technological projects that is relevant to this day.
history  science  management  advice  negotiation 
5 weeks ago by kmt
Powerless Placebos | Slate Star Codex
The most important study on the placebo effect is Hróbjartsson and Gøtzsche’s Is The Placebo Powerless?, updated three years later by a systematic review and seven years later with a Cochrane review. All three looked at studies comparing a real drug, a placebo drug, and no drug (by the third, over 200 such studies) – and, in general, found little benefit of the placebo drug over no drug at all. There were some possible minor placebo effects in a few isolated conditions – mostly pain – but overall H&G concluded that the placebo effect was clinically insignificant. Despite a few half-hearted tries, no one has been able to produce much evidence they’re wrong. This is kind of surprising, since everyone has been obsessing over placebos and saying they’re super-important for the past fifty years.
medicine  science  stats  reference 
5 weeks ago by kmt
Tadashi Tokieda Collects Math and Physics Surprises | Quanta Magazine
Tadashi Tokieda lives in a world in which ordinary objects do extraordinary things. Jars of rice refuse to roll down ramps. Strips of paper slip past solid obstacles. Balls swirling inside a bowl switch direction when more balls join them.
physics  esoteric  math  research  science  interview 
7 weeks ago by kmt
Is Science Stagnant? - The Atlantic
Despite vast increases in the time and money spent on research, progress is barely keeping pace with the past. What went wrong?
analysis  science  methodology  politics 
8 weeks ago by kmt
Spatial and temporal codes mediate the tactile perception of natural textures | PNAS
The proposed temporal coding mechanism involves converting the fine spatial structure of the surface into a temporal spiking pattern, shaped in part by the mechanical properties of the skin, and ascribes an additional function to vibration-sensitive mechanoreceptive afferents. This temporal mechanism complements the spatial one and greatly extends the range of tangible textures. We show that a combination of spatial and temporal mechanisms, mediated by all three populations of afferents, accounts for perceptual judgments of texture.
science  psychology  research 
8 weeks ago by kmt
If you’re going to lecture others on the need to learn history then it pays to get your own history right. | The Renaissance Mathematicus
I’ve actually written a whole blog post on the Spanish physician, theologian, cartographer and Renaissance humanist Miguel Serveto (1509 or 1511–1553) under the title Not a martyr for science. Serveto was even more of a polymath than al-Rāzīand made contribution to a bewildering range of topics. His execution had absolutely nothing to do with his discovery of the pulmonary circulation but was entirely the result of his highly heterodox religious views. He did not escape from Spain but from Vienne in France, where he had been imprisoned on suspicion of heresy. Fleeing to Italy he stopped in Geneva, a strange decision as he had already had a major dispute, by exchange of letters, with Calvin on the subject of Christian doctrine. He was arrested, tried, found guilty of heresy and burnt at the stake. Interestingly not only the Catholics and Calvin were happy to see him executed but Luther and Melanchthon as well. Serveto really knew how to make enemies.
science  history  reference  sources 
10 weeks ago by kmt
The Curious Wavefunction: Victor Weisskopf and the many joys of scientific insight
"During the 1960s I tried to recall my emotions of those days for the students who came to me during the protests against the Vietnam War. This, and other political issues, preoccupied them, and they told me that they found it impossible to concentrate on problems of theoretical physics when so much was at stake for the country and for humanity. I tried to convince them - not too successfully - that especially in difficult times it was important to remain aware of the great enduring achievements in science and in other fields in order to remain sane and preserve a belief in the future. Apart from these great contributions to civilization, humankind offers rather little to support that faith."
methodology  science  people  history 
10 weeks ago by kmt
Demand characteristics - Wikipedia
In research—particularly psychology—demand characteristics refers to an experimental artifact where participants form an interpretation of the experiment's purpose and unconsciously change their behavior to fit that interpretation.[1] Pioneering research was conducted on demand characteristics by Martin Orne.[2] Typically, they are considered an extraneous variable, exerting an effect on behavior other than that intended by the experimenter.
stats  psychology  methodology  science 
10 weeks ago by kmt
Allergies: the scourge of modern life? | Society | The Guardian
Our ancestors didn’t suffer from hay fever and food allergies were extremely rare even a few decades ago. What is causing the steep rise in their incidence now?
medicine  argument  science  research 
11 weeks ago by kmt
The peer review industry: implausible and outrageous – TheTLS
The peer review industry: implausible and outrageous
Tim Crane considers the vast financial burden private academic publishers place on public institutions
academia  journalism  economics  argument  publishing  capitalism  science 
11 weeks ago by kmt
Matters of Faith | memorious
That is not news. Nor is it unique to fields that study things like gender and race, as opposed to, say, mathematics and engineering — two areas recently subjected to a hoax that placed 120 AI-generated nonsense papers (which should, presumably, have been even easier for educated eyes to spot than the hand-crafted junk submitted here) in journals. Every field can be hoaxed, and many have been. But only some fields can be hoaxed profitably. There is no built-in audience of people who despise mathematics and applaud when mathematicians get pranked. But there is a large audience, in social and traditional media, primed for the humiliation of “left-wing”, and especially “feminist”, scholars. If one wanted to establish something about the relative intellectual legitimacy of gender studies and, say, economics, or engineering, or physics, one could presumably try to fool reviewers in each, see who did better, and figure out why. That didn’t happen here, because the point wasn’t to conduct any such study. It was to embarrass a target. (That they labelled all the fields concerned dismissively as “Grievance Studies” is just the crassest evidence of parti pris.)
science  academia  methodology  argument 
october 2018 by kmt
The Galileo Circus is in town | The Renaissance Mathematicus
Before I go on I think it is necessary to restate something that people discussing the situation tend to forget or ignore. In the early seventeenth century the concepts of freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of expression simply did not exist anywhere in Europe neither under secular or religious jurisdiction, no matter which church was involved. This was something that Galileo was well aware of but apparently in his hubris he thought his newly found fame would protect him from censure, he was wrong. A second point that also tends to get ignored is that when Galileo decided to go into full frontal attack with the Church on scriptural interpretation it was the middle of the Counter Reformation. The Reformation and the Counter Reformation centred on the question, who is allowed to interpret Holy Scripture. The Lutherans said anybody who could read, although they later changed their minds on that, whereas the Catholic Church said only the Church theologian were entitled to. Here was Galileo a mere mathematicus, the lowest of the low in the Renaissance intellectual hierarchy, telling the theologians, the pinnacle of the Renaissance intellectual pyramid, how to interpret the Bible, not a wise move. Not only did Galileo go out on a limb but he did so with his very best polemic and invective and if there was something in which Galileo was unrivalled at it was writing polemic and invective.
history  science  religion  argument  sources  reference 
october 2018 by kmt
Not a martyr for science. | The Renaissance Mathematicus
The discovery of pulmonary circulation actually got lost at least twice and Servetus was not its first discoverer. Pulmonary circulation had already been discovered in the thirteenth century by Ala-al-din abu Al-Hassan Ali ibn Abi-Hazm al-Qarshi al-Dimashqi, known as Ibn al-Nafis, and published in his Commentary on the Anatomy of Canon of Avicenna a text that simply disappeared and was first re-discovered in the twentieth century. Somehow this was a discovery that didn’t want to be made. However pulmonary circulation was discovered independently for a third time, and this time demonstrated empirically, by Realdo Colombo, Vesalius’ successor as professor of anatomy in Padua, in 1559 and this time it remained discovered.
history  science  sources  religion  reference 
october 2018 by kmt
Scientific Autonomy, Public Accountability, and the Rise of “Peer Review” in the Cold War United States | Isis: Vol 109, No 3
This essay traces the history of refereeing at specialist scientific journals and at funding bodies and shows that it was only in the late twentieth century that peer review came to be seen as a process central to scientific practice. Throughout the nineteenth century and into much of the twentieth, external referee reports were considered an optional part of journal editing or grant making. The idea that refereeing is a requirement for scientific legitimacy seems to have arisen first in the Cold War United States. In the 1970s, in the wake of a series of attacks on scientific funding, American scientists faced a dilemma: there was increasing pressure for science to be accountable to those who funded it, but scientists wanted to ensure their continuing influence over funding decisions. Scientists and their supporters cast expert refereeing—or “peer review,” as it was increasingly called—as the crucial process that ensured the credibility of science as a whole. Taking funding decisions out of expert hands, they argued, would be a corruption of science itself. This public elevation of peer review both reinforced and spread the belief that only peer-reviewed science was scientifically legitimate.
science  history  methodology  research 
september 2018 by kmt
What Is Threatening Science? by Jeremy J. Baumberg - Project Syndicate
Globalization, the digitization of knowledge, and the growing number of scientists all seem, at first glance, like positive trends for the progress of science. But these trends are Janus-faced, for they also encourage a hyper-competitive, trend-driven, and herd-like approach to scientific research.
science  politics  research  methodology  argument 
september 2018 by kmt
Today in something is wrong on the Internet | The Renaissance Mathematicus
When I was growing up one of the most widespread #histSTM myths, along with the claim that people in the Middle Ages believed the world was flat and Stone Age people lived in holes in the ground, was that Galileo Galilei invented the telescope. This myth actually has an interesting history that goes all the way back to the publication of the Sidereus Nuncius. Some of Galileo’s critics misinterpreting what he had written asserted that he was claiming to have invented the telescope, an assertion that Galileo strongly denied in a latter publication. Whatever, as I said when I was growing up it was common knowledge that Galileo had invented the telescope. During the 1960s and 1970s as history of science slowly crept out of its niche and became more public and more popular this myth was at some point put out of its misery and buried discretely, where, I thought, nobody would find it again. I was wrong.
history  science  astronomy  optics 
september 2018 by kmt
The last polymath
Historian David Cahan copes confidently with these complexities in his monumental new biography. The result of almost three decades of scholarly work, Helmholtz is a comprehensive and timely account. In recent years, historians of science have published several studies devoted to isolated aspects of Helmholtz’s work — his contributions to neurophysiology and hydrodynamics, as well as his epistemology and aesthetics.

However, anyone interested in the complete picture was forced to go back more than 100 years, to a bulky biography by German mathematician Leo Königsberger. In no fewer than three volumes published in 1902–03, Königsberger, a friend of the Helmholtz family, depicted the German scholar as a lonesome genius whose scientific success was the result of unusual giftedness combined with extremely hard work.

Helmholtz is an impressive corrective to such partial or simplistic treatments. The book not only accounts for the German scholar’s voluminous publications (his Lectures on Theoretical Physics alone comprise six volumes, posthumously published between 1897 and 1907), but also encompasses an uncounted number of manuscripts and letters dispersed in archives all over the world. The result is as compelling as it is convincing.
books  review  science  people  methodology 
september 2018 by kmt
Victorian Doctors Didn't Treat Women With Orgasms, Say Historians - The Atlantic
It’s not hard to see how the idea spread. The entire story of Victorian vibrators originates from the work of one scholar: Rachel Maines, a historian and a former visiting scientist at Cornell University. Her 1999 book, The Technology of Orgasm—described at the time as a “secret history of female sexual arousal”—argued that clitoral massage was used as a medical technique for centuries, from the time of Hippocrates to the modern day.

But that’s just not true, according to Lieberman and Eric Schatzberg, the chair of the School of History and Sociology at Georgia Tech. There is scant evidence that orgasms were widely understood as a cure for female hysteria, and there’s even less evidence that Victorians used vibrators to induce orgasm as a medical technique, they say. “Maines fails to cite a single source that openly describes use of the vibrator to massage the clitoral area,” their paper says. “None of her English-language sources even mentions production of ‘paroxysms’ by massage or anything else that could remotely suggest an orgasm.”

Instead, they argue, Maines conceals this lack of support by relying on a “wink and nod” approach to primary sourcing and by “padding her argument with a mass of tangential citations.”
science  history  methodology  argument 
september 2018 by kmt
Hasok Chang, Anti-Alchemist | Forbidden Histories
I have shown this experiment to dozens of professional chemists and chemistry students. There hasn’t been a single person not surprised to see gold dissolved in salt water with the help of mere 3 volts of electricity. The kinds of things I was looking into, arising from my work in the history of science, are quite far from cutting-edge issues in today’s chemistry. It was surprising to me that none of the chemists I spoke to had ever conducted this experiment before — but then again, why would they? Perhaps I have a heretical sense of what scientists ought to be attending to.

I have a lot more work to do. As yet I don’t know the exact identity of that yellow streak that comes off the gold electrode. It must be some sort of gold chloride, but an exact analysis will need to be performed. I also don’t know why the reaction happens only in a narrow range of voltages applied. I am not a chemist, and my chemist colleagues at the Universities of London, Cambridge and elsewhere have not had ready answers to all of my questions. But I hope they will continue to help me in my research.
physics  chemistry  magic  science  history  blog 
august 2018 by kmt
The war over supercooled water
The procedure the Berkeley team used to initialize the molecular dynamics simulations was unorthodox—it involved randomly selecting a pair of molecules and then swapping their velocities. Palmer and company discovered that the technique produced sample configurations that seemed to flout basic laws of statistical mechanics: The energies deviated from the expected equilibrium values, governed by the Boltzmann distribution, and the molecules’ rotational and translational temperatures didn’t match up. Perhaps most important, the molecules behaved as if they were tens of degrees hotter than their assigned temperature.

Suddenly it made sense that the Berkeley researchers hadn’t seen a second liquid phase; they were effectively running their simulations at temperatures well above the critical point. The moment the Princeton group swapped out the unorthodox sampling scheme with a standard one, the discrepancy went away.
physics  chemistry  methodology  science  people 
august 2018 by kmt
The Curious Wavefunction: Physicist Leo Kadanoff on reductionism and models: "Don't model bulldozers with quarks."
"1. Use the right level of description to catch the phenomena of interest. Don't model bulldozers with quarks.

2. Every good model starts from a question. The modeler should aways pick the right level of detail to answer the question."
models  argument  reference  people  sources  methodology  science  physics  finance 
august 2018 by kmt
Entropy Explained
You might’ve heard an explanation that goes like this: whenever you drop an egg, or melt an ice cube, or shatter a wine glass, you’ve increased the entropy of the world. You might also have heard the phrase, “entropy always increases”. In other words, things are only allowed to happen in one direction — the direction in which entropy increases.

But this doesn’t answer the question, it just replaces it with a new set of questions.

What is entropy, really? Why does it always keep increasing? Why don’t eggshells uncrack, or wine glasses unshatter? In this piece, my goal is to give you the tools to answer these questions.
physics  science  explanation  tutorial 
july 2018 by kmt
Backreaction: Evidence for modified gravity is now evidence against it.
Indeed, it would be an interesting exercise to quantify how well modified gravity does in this set of galaxies compared to particle dark matter with the same number of parameters. Chances are, you’d find that particle dark matter too is ruled out at 5 σ. It’s just that no one is dumb enough to make such a claim. When it comes to particle dark matter, astrophysicists will be quick to tell you galaxy dynamics involves loads of complicated astrophysics and it’s rather unrealistic that one parameter will account for the variety in any sample.

Without the comparison to particle dark matter, therefore, the only thing I learn from the Rodrigues et al paper is that a non-universal acceleration scale fits the data better than a universal one. And that I could have told you without even looking at the data.

Summary: I’m not impressed.

It’s day 12,805 in the war between modified gravity and dark matter and dark matter enthusiasts still haven’t found the battle field.
physics  science  argument  astrophysics  methodology  reference 
july 2018 by kmt
The Case of Verge Genomics | In the Pipeline
Ash Jogalekar summed it up perfectly on Twitter yesterday, as shown at right. The problems with Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s drug discovery are not data handling problems. The important problems with drug discovery in general are not data handling problems, and unfortunately there are many people who would like to think that they are. Who would perhaps like to think that everything could be solved if we could just obtain and correlate enough data. But what we’re short of is insights, ideas, and understanding, and those come slowly, painfully, and expensively.
medicine  science  research  argument  computing  business  bullshit  chemistry 
july 2018 by kmt
The Hunt for Earth’s Deep Hidden Oceans | Quanta Magazine
tl,dr: how to get samples from inaccessible places
These mineral flecks — some too small to see even under a microscope — offer a peek into Earth’s otherwise unreachable interior. In 2014, researchers glimpsed something embedded in these minerals that, if not for its deep origins, would’ve been unremarkable: water.

Not actual drops of water, or even molecules of H20, but its ingredients, atoms of hydrogen and oxygen embedded in the crystal structure of the mineral itself. This hydrous mineral isn’t wet. But when it melts, out spills water. The discovery was the first direct proof that water-rich minerals exist this deep, between 410 and 660 kilometers down, in a region called the transition zone, sandwiched between the upper and lower mantles.
geophysics  chemistry  geology  science  writing 
july 2018 by kmt
Association of Type 2 Diabetes with Submicron Titanium Dioxide Crystals in the Pancreas - Chemical Research in Toxicology (ACS Publications)
Inhaled and ingested submicron and micron-sized crystals and crystal aggregates are associated with chronic inflammatory degenerative diseases. Diseases of the lung, exemplified by silicosis and asbestosis, result of inhalation of crystalline silica and asbestos. Crystals of sodium urate, cystine, calcium oxalate dihydrate and calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate are associated with chronic inflammatory degenerative diseases of the joints, kidneys, and urinary tract.
Pigment-grade TiO2, typically of rutile phase and of 200–300 nm particle diameter, about half the wavelength of visible light, is widely used. Because of its 2.6 index of refraction, it constitutes the dominant light-scattering, that is, “white” component of indoor wall paints, drinks, foods, toothpastes, medications, cosmetics, paper, and plastics. The annual production of pigment-grade TiO2 has increased in the past 50 years from 2 × 106 tons to 6 × 106 tons, as TiO2 replaced the earlier used, more toxic, lead carbonate white pigment. Consumers and patients are routinely exposed to TiO2 crystals, inhaling and ingesting these.
medicine  health  science  toxicology 
june 2018 by kmt
Gunfight at the Cubic Corral | The Renaissance Mathematicus
Cardano did not steal Tartaglia’s solution and in my naivety I had assumed that everybody with an interest in the history of mathematics already knew the true story, obviously this is not the case so I have decided to retell it here, for once dealing with a couple of real life Renaissance Mathematicae.
math  history  reference  science 
june 2018 by kmt
Richard Smith: Medical research—still a scandal - The BMJ
Twenty years ago this week the statistician Doug Altman published an editorial in the BMJ arguing that much medical research was of poor quality and misleading. In his editorial entitled, “The Scandal of Poor Medical Research,” Altman wrote that much research was “seriously flawed through the use of inappropriate designs, unrepresentative samples, small samples, incorrect methods of analysis, and faulty interpretation.” Twenty years later I fear that things are not better but worse.
medicine  argument  science  stats  methodology  read-later 
june 2018 by kmt
International Institute of Social History | socioeconomic history
Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations
sociology  science  history  reference 
june 2018 by kmt
MiniBooNE | Azimuth
Big news! An experiment called MiniBooNE at Fermilab in Chicago has found more evidence that neutrinos are not acting as the Standard Model says they should:
physics  blog  science 
june 2018 by kmt
General semantics - Wikipedia
it's rumored that GS influenced frank herbert, esp. regarding the bene gesserit
dune  history  psychology  science 
may 2018 by kmt
How Dyson Saw Feynman
Here, we present short excerpts from nine of Dyson’s letters, with a focus on his relationship with the physicist Richard Feynman. Dyson and Feynman had both professional and personal bonds: Dyson helped interpret and draw attention to Feynman’s work—which went on to earn a Nobel Prize—and the two men traveled together and worked side by side.
people  science  reference  read-later 
may 2018 by kmt
Color: From Hexcodes to Eyeballs
Why do we perceive background-color: #9B51E0 as this particular purple?

This is one of those questions where I thought I’d known the answer for a long time, but as I inspected my understanding, I realized there were pretty significant gaps.

Through an exploration of electromagnetic radiation, optical biology, colorimetry, and display hardware, I hope to start filling in some of these gaps. If you want to skip ahead, here’s the lay of the land we’ll be covering:
physics  reference  science  design  visualisation  explanation 
april 2018 by kmt
Backreaction: The Multiworse Is Coming
It’s a PR disaster that particle physics won’t be able to shake off easily. Before the LHC’s launch in 2008, many theorists expressed themselves confident the collider would produce new particles besides the Higgs boson. That hasn’t happened. And the public isn’t remotely as dumb as many academics wish. They’ll remember next time we come ask for money.

The big proclamations came almost exclusively from theoretical physicists; CERN didn’t promise anything they didn’t deliver. That is an important distinction, but I am afraid in the public perception the subtler differences won’t matter. It’s “physicists said.” And what physicists said was wrong. Like hair, trust is hard to split. And like hair, trust is easier to lose than to grow.
physics  science  methodology  philosophy  argument  reference 
april 2018 by kmt
We've Been Here Before: The Replication Crisis over the Pygmalion Effect | Introduction to the New Statistics
This is news to me…though maybe not to you.  Since I first read about the Pygmalion effect as a first-year college student I ‘ve bored countless friends and acquaintances with this study.  It was a conversational lodestone; I could find expectancy effects everywhere and so talked about them frequently.  No more, or at least not nearly so simplistically.  The original Pygmalion Effect is seductive baloney.

What has really crushed my spirit today is the history of the Pygmalion Effect.  It turns out that when it was published it set off a wave of debate that very closely mirrors the current replication crisis.  Details are below, but here’s the gist:
psychology  science  methodology  replication-crisis  argument  reference 
april 2018 by kmt
Dragonfly - Dunlap Institute
Dragonfly is an innovative, multi-lens array designed for ultra-low surface brightness astronomy at visible wavelengths. Commissioned in 2013 with only three lenses, the array is growing in size and proving capable of detecting extremely faint, complex structure around galaxies. The most recent upgrade—completed in 2016—saw Dragonfly grow to 48 lenses in two clusters.

Dragonfly is designed to reveal the faint structure by greatly reducing scattered light and internal reflections within its optics. It achieves this using commercially available Canon 400mm lenses with unprecedented nano-fabricated coatings with sub-wavelength structure on optical glasses.
astrophysics  telescopes  engineering  science  reference 
march 2018 by kmt
New York: Basic Books, Forthcoming May 2018
bayes  probability  science  methodology  read-later 
march 2018 by kmt
Mythical Retention Data & The Corrupted Cone – Work-Learning Research
I include these two examples to make two points. First, note how one person clearly stole from the other one. Second, note how sloppy these fabricators are. They include a Confucius quote that directly contradicts what the numbers say. On the left side of the visuals, Confucius is purported to say that hearing is better than seeing, while the numbers on the right of the visuals say that seeing is better than hearing. And, by the way, Confucius did not actually say what he is being alleged to have said! What seems clear from looking at these and other examples is that people don’t do their due diligence—their ends seems to justify their means—and they are damn sloppy, suggesting that they don’t think their audiences will examine their arguments closely.
education  argument  reference  psychology  methodology  science 
march 2018 by kmt
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